Polluters would help foot the bill for conservation under Democratic spending proposal

Read the full story at The Hill.

Fossil fuel and mining companies would contribute billions towards conservation programs under a new proposal from Democrats on a key House committee.

Tick bites: Every year is a bad tick year

Black-legged ticks carry Lyme disease, which continues to spread widely across the United States. CDC/Michael Levin

by Jory Brinkerhoff (University of Richmond)

It’s summer, a time to hike, garden, vacation – and to be on the lookout for ticks.

From Lyme disease to lesser-known illnesses like Heartland virus disease, ehrlichiosis and Colorado tick fever, tick-borne disease cases are increasing rapidly in the United States.

In 2017, 59,349 cases were reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an all-time high. Yet, this represents just a fraction of infections because those who don’t exhibit symptoms or fail to seek treatment remain uncounted. A recent report estimated nearly a half-million Lyme disease cases per year in the U.S., with numbers more than doubling from 2004 to 2016.

As a biologist who studies tick-borne disease, I am asked each spring and summer whether it will be a bad year for ticks. The answer: It is never a good year for ticks. There may be relatively few of certain species and many of other types. Different species of ticks live in different environments. Many factors influence numbers, from dwindling biodiversity and ecological change to the changing climate. But every year, the time to be most vigilant is early spring through late fall.

Michigan, Wisconsin and the Northeast are hot spots for tick-borne disease in the U.S. CDC

Different species, different patterns

There are at least seven tick species in North America that commonly bite and infect humans and animals with numerous diseases. But there are others, too. Over the past two decades, seven new tick-borne germs have been identified in the U.S., including a newly discovered Lyme disease bacterium found in the Upper Midwest and Bourbon virus, discovered in Bourbon County, Kansas.

Some regions, like where I work in Richmond, Virginia, are home to multiple human-biting species, each with its own suite of pathogens and habitat preferences. Black-legged ticks, which spread Lyme and other diseases, are of greatest concern. They are common in forests across the Eastern U.S.. The bite of an infected American dog tick, which prefer grassy areas, can infect people and dogs with Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Aggressive Lone Star ticks, which can transmit ehrlichiosis and tularemia, thrive in many habitats across the eastern U.S., and can survive hot, dry conditions.

Complex life cycles

These parasitic arthropods are more closely related to mites, spiders and scorpions than to insects. Ticks spend most of their time on the ground in leaf litter or vegetation, undergoing a four-stage metamorphosis.

Eggs hatch into six-legged larvae and attach to a host. Then they drop off and molt into eight-legged nymphs, find a host and grow into reproductive adults. Much of their lives are spent waiting, inactive, for warmer or more humid weather to continue development, or on the hunt for their next meal.

Mortality is high. If just 10% of ticks survived each life stage, it would take 2,000 eggs to produce a pair of reproductive adults. Small changes in survival can affect populations for years.

Most of the hard-bodied, blood-feeding ticks that carry disease take only three bloodmeals during their entire two- to three-year life cycle – meals that allow them to molt into the next stage, or to lay eggs.

They feed on mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Most ticks prefer a different host at each stage of their life, finding it by detecting an animal’s breath or smell, sensing body heat, moisture or vibrations.

The life cycle of a black-legged tick is generally two years. CDC

The numbers of available hosts may be a key factor in tick abundance, which is sometimes influenced by natural cycles. For example, during “mast” years when acorns are plentiful, white-footed mice populations grow along with black-legged ticks that feed on them, and Lyme disease cases also tend to rise.

Lyme disease experts warn that ticks are spreading.

Expanding territory

Predicting tick numbers grows harder as many species expand their ranges. Altered ecosystems play a substantial role. Lyme disease became epidemic when mice that carry the bacterium proliferated and deer were reintroduced for hunting in the 1900s after a steep decline; deer act as hosts for adult black-legged ticks that spread the disease. Migrating birds have also helped disperse ticks along the Atlantic flyway.

Changing climate, with shorter, milder winters, may increase tick survival, creating larger populations. Shorter, warmer winters have allowed some species to move northward. The two Lyme-spreading tick species now live in at least 43 states. Gulf Coast ticks have spread north to Delaware and Illinois, and the Lone Star tick may soon reach Canada.

However, warming trends may have mixed impacts. Ticks need moisture as well as blood to survive; hot, dry weather kills some species, but not others.

The forecast

While researchers have identified why their numbers change over space and time, predicting risk is difficult. But we do know that tick-borne diseases will continue to be a human and veterinary health threat. Ancient ticks once fed on dinosaurs. Scientists discovered fossilized ticks, some 15 million years old, that carried the Borrelia bacteria that causes Lyme disease, showing that it existed long before humans.

From a public health perspective, the most important question about ticks is not whether a given year will be particularly bad in terms of tick numbers, but what can be done to reduce the risk of encountering these parasites to avoid illness.

Jory Brinkerhoff, Associate Professor of Biology, University of Richmond

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Samsung pledges to remove smartphone plastic packaging by 2025

Read the full story at ZDNet.

As Samsung unveils a new sustainability plan, LG has pledged to set emissions targets that would make it adhere to the Paris Agreement’s stretch goal.

Is building tall really best? Researchers dispel the myth of climate-friendly skyscrapers

Read the full story at Fast Company.

According to a new study, a neighborhood of skyscrapers results in about 140% more total emissions than a lower-rise area with the same population, like most Parisian neighborhoods.

Conservation finance should not sell itself short

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

How can professionals who devote their lives to sustaining real places connect in virtual space? Judging from the 2021 Conservation Finance Boot Camp, pretty intensely. Digital again for the first time, the 2021 Conservation Finance Boot Camp drew over 120 professionals from at least six time zones to learn proven techniques for raising capital to preserve natural habitat. The main lessons took in conservation’s rising importance in global capital investment and local projects’ increasingly definable best practices. The world depends on biodiversity, and on-the-ground projects are evolving fast in their own right.

Understanding the difference between carbon net zero and carbon neutral is critical

Read the full story at New Civil Engineer.

As understanding of the climate crisis increases and we know more about the harm to ourselves, the environment, business, industry and the economy that will follow, so a desire to not only reduce carbon but to be seen reducing carbon increases.

Electronics industry leaders advance toward zero exposure to workers throughout the supply chain

Read the full story from the Clean Electronics Production Network.

The Clean Electronics Production Network is pleased to announce the Toward Zero Exposure program, which has been developed with noted sustainability and social responsibility leaders. As Founding Signatories, Apple, Dell Technologies and HP Inc., commit to accelerating existing efforts in chemical safety and boosting awareness of the need to improve chemical management practices across the global electronics manufacturing industry to eliminate workers’ exposure to hazardous chemicals.

There won’t be enough batteries to fulfill the industry’s EV promises

Read the full story at Autoweek.

A lot of electric cars have been promised. Some experts are warning there may not be enough batteries for them all.

How scientists are preparing wheat for climate change

Read the full story at Mashable.

Researchers are using drones and infrared technology to keep bread on the table.

The Economic Benefits of the New Climate Economy in Rural America

Download the document.

This paper discusses the rural economic impact of federal investment in the new climate economy, including measures to advance clean energy systems, remediate abandoned fossil fuel production sites, restore trees to the landscape and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire. This paper finds that federal investment could support 260,000 rural jobs each year over at least five years to create new economic opportunities in rural places while addressing climate change.